A. Kettler, F. Marin, G. Sattelmayer, M. Mohr, H. Mannel, L. Dürselen, L. Claes, H. J. Wilke

May 2004, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 553 - 559 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-004-0710-8

First Online: 18 May 2004

The finite helical-axes method can be used to describe the three-dimensional in vitro kinematics of the spine. However, this method still suffers from large stochastic calculation errors and poorly conceived visualisation techniques. The aim of the present study, therefore, was to improve the currently used finite helical axes description, by use of a less error-prone calculation algorithm and a new visualisation technique, and to apply this improved method to the study of the three-dimensional in vitro kinematics of the spine. Three-dimensional, continuous motion data of spinal motion segments were used to calculate the position and orientation of the finite helical axes (FHAs). The axes were then projected on plane antero-posterior, lateral and axial radiographs in order to depict the relation to the anatomy of each individual specimen. A hinge joint was used to estimate the measurement error of data collection and axes calculation. In an exemplary in vitro experiment, this method was used to demonstrate the ability of a prosthetic disc nucleus to restore the three-dimensional motion pattern of lumbar motion segments. In the validation experiment with the hinge joint, the calculated FHAs were lying within ±2.5 mm of the actual joint axis and were inclined relative to this axis at up to ±1.5°. In the exemplary in vitro experiment, the position and orientation of the FHAs of the intact specimens were subject to large inter-individual differences in all loading directions. Nucleotomy of the lumbar segments caused the axes to spread out, indicating complex coupled motions. The implantation of the prosthetic disc nucleus, for the most part, more than reversed this effect: the axes became oriented almost parallel to each other. The experiments showed that the present improved description of finite helical axes is a valid and useful tool to characterise the three-dimensional in vitro kinematics of the intact, injured and stabilised spine. The main advantage of this new method is the comprehensive visualisation of joint function with respect to the individual anatomy.

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